Diverticulitis is the inflammation of the diverticula, small pouches found in the inner lining of the intestinal tract. Diverticulosis, the condition that causes the pouches to form, is common in people over the age of 40. Nearly half the people in the United States develop diverticulosis by the age of 60. Diverticula, which are multiple small pouches, can occur anywhere within the digestive tract but are most commonly found in the lower portion of the large intestine, also known as the sigmoid colon. Most often these pouches are harmless but they can become infected and inflamed, causing diverticulitis.
Causes of Diverticulitis
The diverticula form from pressure on naturally weak areas of the colon, and infection usually occurs from the prolonged pressure. Certain factors increase the pressure on the colon, including the following:
- Lack of fiber in the diet
- Lack of exercise
Symptoms of Diverticulitis
When the diverticula become infected, they may cause symptoms that are similar to appendicitis, with severe abdominal pain that is focused on the lower left side of the body rather than the right. This condition may also cause fever, nausea, constipation or diarrhea, vomiting, bloating and rectal bleeding.
Diagnosis of Diverticulitis
Diverticulosis does not always cause symptoms, it is often detected during a routine medical exams and diagnostic tests. Diverticulitis can be diagnosed during a flare-up of symptoms. Some of the diagnostic tests that may be performed include the following:
- Blood test
- CT scan
- Abdominal ultrasound
- Rectal examination
Treatment of Diverticulitis
Diverticulitis can lead to serious complications. It is important to effectively treat the condition to avoid these complications. Treatment depends on the severity of the infection but can range from resting, a regimen of antibiotics, hospitalization, or surgery to remove part of the colon. A diet high in fiber may help relieve symptoms and reduce the risk of developing diverticulitis.